The Commemoration of Our Independence as a Nation
6 September 2022
On the Commemoration of the 60th anniversary of our declaration of our independence, let us reflect on what we initially committed ourselves to build. We must ask ourselves why this dream of building a nation continues to elude us. We must, however, recommit to that great and lofty task while we rejoice at our many achievements along the way. There is much we are yet to achieve. There will be numerous stumbling blocks along the way. Since we first set this task for ourselves, we have realized that there were tasks that we did not prioritize or keep at the forefront of our minds, and which have now come back to haunt us. The first of these is the vexed question of the agenda issues for the separation from the British Colonial government and those of its obligations, agreed to or not, to the soon-to-become independent country of Trinidad and Tobago with respect to the broad issue of reparations, first to the First Peoples of Trinidad and Tobago. Second, to the descendants of enslaved Africans, and finally to the descendants of indentured East Indians.
There seemed to have been no discussion or conclusion with respect to any obligation on the part of the British government to provide assistance in the development of the much needed social, educational, health, or physical infrastructure that was all in an extensive and obviously dilapidated and near collapse state at the time of the negotiations and subsequent separation of August 30th, 1962. The British government seemed only too happy to "cut and run". This is where we must begin. As we celebrate, we must take time to reflect. We must take time to reflect that there are many who have indeed been left behind and therefore have little to celebrate with and for. But it is this society that we have created, a society of vast inequality in which some have more than they need while others are forced to live in abject poverty and hopelessness. We have built not a dream but a schizophrenic nightmare of two worlds. Our beloved nation is actually two worlds. Trinidad and Tobago for the "ten percenters," as well as Trinidad and Tobago for ghettos, slums, planning, and, of course, gangs, violence, and murders. Surely we cannot celebrate all of these, but we must take note and resolve to continue to build our nation in spite of the present picture. Let us keep our eyes on the prize: building a nation worth dreaming of.